On the road in New York City...
But first a few observations on the Big Apple:
The Big Apple is far and away my biggest stop. I have over 100 companies on my list to visit in New York City. About four weeks before I arrived I sent a letter of introduction to all the company CEO’s on my list, along with news clippings about me and my Bloomberg-sponsored mission. Many companies tell me they never received my advance materials. I figure this means one of two things: 1) it’s a ploy to avoid saying they don’t want to talk with me or 2) their mailroom operations are flawed.
Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association
College Retirement Equities Fund
It’s confession time as I sit in Don Harrell’s office. He’s the Executive Vice President of External Affairs for TIAA-CREF. The company has assets over $61 billion; add assets of $52 billion in the College Retirement Equities Fund and you have the world’s largest private pension fund. So I confess I’ve never heard of them. Harrell just laughs. He says my ignorance means they’re doing their job right—keeping a low profile.
Headquarters is a company-owned, 27-story, 300,000 square-foot building in downtown New York City. Built in 1959, the plain-looking structure has a small plaque next to the entrance with the letters—TIAA-CREF. Low profile indeed.
This year TIAA-CREF celebrates its 75th anniversary. However, the company’s roots go back even further. In 1905 philanthropist Andrew Carnegie set up a free pension system for college professors through his Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. From this pension system grew TIAA-CREF.
TIAA’s mortgage and real estate portfolio totals more than $27 billion—including $20.9 billion in mortgages and $5.8 billion in real estate. (TIAA is 51% owner of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, the largest indoor shopping center in North America.) TIAA is also one of only three life insurance companies in the U.S. carrying the highest rating for claims-paying ability from the four leading independent rating agencies (Duff & Phelps, Standard & Poors, Moody’s Investor Service and A.M. Best Company.)
Chemical Banking Corporation
Chemical Bank merged with Manufacturers Hanover (1992 assets $140 billion) since my last visit six years ago so the first change I notice is the new building. Before their merger, Chemical Bank and Manufactures Hanover had headquarters directly across the street from each other in high-rise office buildings on Park Avenue. John Stefans, Senior Vice President, tells me that since Manufacturers Hanover owned their building, while Chemical leased their space, it made sense to make the 50-story Manufacturers Hanover building the headquarters for the merged company.
Built in 1960 by Union Carbide and acquired by Manufacturers Hanover in 1982, the building has 1.3 million square feet and is home to 3,000 employees.
The boardroom on the 50th floor has a great view. Stefans tells me a funny story about the conference rooms on the 50th floor, which also have great views. The building’s contractors in the 60’s built in all the latest electronic gadgets, including automatic window shades. If the sun came out while the shades were open, they would close automatically. Sounds great in theory.
But what about those partly sunny/partly cloudy days. You know, the kind where the sun comes out one minute, then goes behind the clouds the next, then it’s bright again, etc. Now imagine you’re trying to hold a meeting in one of the company’s conference rooms or the board room on the 50th floor. The poor confused window shades are going up and down, up and down. Talk about distracting. The end of this story is predictable. These particular gadgets were disconnected.
CEO J. McGillicuddy has his office on the 8th floor. I don’t get to see it but Stefans tells me he chose a lower floor in order to be closer to the "troops." (For more information: CHL)
Handy & Harman
Handy & Harman, a precious metals and wire & tubing manufacturer, headquartered on Park Avenue (1992 revenues $572 million), dates its origins back to 1867.
Richard Daniel, CEO, and Phyllis Astrella, his secretary, answer my questions in elegantly furnished offices. The company just moved here last year from offices four blocks away. I notice an American flag in the reception area.
Daniel has a corner office with a rare New York City terrace. He walks me out on the terrace—it’s astro-turfed—so I can see his great view of Park Avenue and Chemical Bank’s headquarters.
Daniel’s office contains quite a few items from the Far East and Vietnam. Handy & Harman does quite a bit of business over there. I tell Daniel the company’s name led me to believe they owned a chain of hardware stores. Daniel laughs and tells me most people think Handy & Harman is a vaudeville act. (For more information: HNH)
Privately-held Ziff Communications, with over $600 million in revenues, is a leading information provider for the computer industry. Their publications include "PC Magazine", "PC Week", "MacWEEK", "Computer Shopper", "MacUser" and "Corporate Computing."
Corporate offices are in a 19-story building on Park Avenue. I meet with Michael Koch. He doesn’t have a formal title; he describes himself as "Man Friday" to CEO William Ziff, Jr.
Koch answers my questions while we sit in Ziff, Jr.’s office.
And this I don’t believe—Ziff, Jr. doesn’t HAVE OR USE A COMPUTER. He dictates to his two secretaries, proficient stenographers, and they E-mail everything.
Ziff has one of those reclining Laz-Z-Boy chairs in his office—it even gives massages. He’s also an avid collector of pre-Colombian and African art. Several wood carvings, weavings and an African head dress decorate his smallish office.
Here’s another Ziff eccentricity—Ziff lives within walking distance of the office but he is chauffeur driven to work.
Sequa Corporation (1992 revenues $1.9 billion) manufactures machinery, metal coatings, jet engine components, specialty chemicals, metal cans, and automotive products. Though it’s only a small percentage of total revenues, the company’s Casco products division is the world’s largest supplier of cigarette lighters for cars, trucks and vans.
I find Sequa Corp. on the 54th floor of the MetLife Building on Park Avenue—formerly the Pan Am Building. The view from the lobby window is spectacular. I can see lower Manhattan, New Jersey and the Empire State Building.
The reception area has lots to look at. There’s a one-fifth scale replica of a Rolls Royce jet engine. Sequa’s biggest operating unit is Chromalloy Gas Turbines, which manufactures and repairs jet aircraft engines.
Richard Schneider, Vice President: Corporate Development, says about 35 employees work here. I ask him about the name Sequa—does it stand for something? No, he tells me. They just made it up. (For more information: SQA/B)
The Rockefeller Foundation
With assets over $6 billion, the Ford Foundation is the largest foundation in the United States. Rockefeller Foundation, with $2 billion in assets, makes the top five list.
The Rockefeller Foundation occupies three and a half floors in a 47-story, mid-town high-rise near Rockefeller Center. I meet with Frank Karel, Vice President: Communications and a very nice guy. I assumed the Foundation would be in Rockefeller Center. Karel tells me it was before but they moved to avoid a conflict of interest.
This is the first foundation I’ve ever visited so I ask Karel what exactly IS a foundation? Karel explains it’s a business whose business is to give money away. Karel gives me an enthusiastic and extensive tour of the place and introduces me to just about all 149 employees. Karel had passed around the advance material I sent so I felt like something of a celebrity. It seemed like everyone wanted to meet "the guy going around the country on a bike."
Nothing fancy about these offices. The reception area has four red velvet chairs and a modern leather couch with red trim. The lobby walls feature pictures of past trustees & presidents. I recognize two of them—Cyrus Vance and John Foster Dulles.
A small photograph of John D. Rockefeller hangs on a wall near the receptionist’s desk. Curious that. I would have expected something much bigger (this one’s about 8 X 10) or an oil painting in an ornate frame. After all this is the man who funded the Foundation.
The Foundation has amassed an extensive international folk art collection. I see a women’s sarong from Indonesia; an 18th century Water Buffalo head from India carved from wood and covered with fabric and paper-mache; a saddle blanket from the Navaho tribe in Arizona; temple doors from a Hindu temple circa 1800; an 18th century Chinese wedding basket; and 19th century puppets from Indonesia.
Before leaving Karel asks me to promise him one thing. "Sure, what’s that?" I ask.
"Give me a call and let me know how your visit to the Ford Foundation goes." he answers. In hindsight I think his smile was a bit sly.
The Ford Foundation
Walking into the Ford Foundation atrium is like walking into a jungle. Built in 1967 the 14-story building with three underground floors features an impressive 11-story atrium filled with a lush tropical rain forest.
Off to the side is the reception area. I ask the receptionist if she can call President Franklin Thomas’s secretary. "I’m not going to call up there and bother them with something like this", she replies. "Why not", I ask. "They’re busy people and they don’t fuss with things of this nature". "Do you have a phone I could use?" I ask. "No", she barks. "There’s a pay phone down the street".
"You aren’t going to help me at all are you?" I ask. "No", she answers and she goes back to reading her book. Later, my attempts to reach anyone on the phone or schedule an appointment meet with the same courtesy and graciousness so aptly demonstrated by the receptionist. When, as promised, I report back to Karel at The Rockefeller Foundation, he laughs and says he tried to warn me.
MasterCard International Inc.
After I sign the visitor’s logbook at MasterCard International, the receptionist hands me an adhesive visitor badge to fill out. Where the badge says name—I write Paul Wolsfeld; where the badge says company—I write Visa. I’m meeting with Alex Hart, CEO, and I want to test his sense a humor. I’m happy to report his sense of humor is excellent and my visit gets off to a great start.
MasterCard International is a membership organization made up of financial institutions around the world. Revenues in 1992 were $450 million.
Hart’s office is on the 42nd floor of a 44-story building overlooking Central Park. I expected it to match or exceed the elegance of the large reception area, which features a black concert piano. Wrong. Hart’s office is plainly-furnished. His small oval-shaped desk is a holdover from his predecessor.
Hart tells me MasterCard’s mission is ambitious—to be the world’s best payments franchise. Then he cites some impressive statistics. For example, volume on MasterCard-branded "pay later" products totaled $259 billion last year; the number of cards currently in circulation is 188 million; 10.6 million locations in 220 countries and territories accept MasterCard; MasterCard Travelers Cheques generated $10.4 billion in sales and its MasterCard/CIRRUS ATM Network now has 123,794 ATM’s in 46 countries. Hart then shows me Maestro, the company’s new global on-line debit card.
I ask Hart about the soccer items in his office. He has a soccer ball signed by Pele. He tells me MasterCard is a sponsor of the 1994 World Cup and they signed Pele as their spokesperson.
Prominently displayed on Hart’s office walls is a framed cover of a 1992 issue of "U.S. Banker", a trade publication. Hart says he looks at it periodically for motivation. The cover shows his arch-rival—the CEO of Visa—surfing a wave, and a quotation from his interview: "The only thing that worries me is becoming a monopoly." Motivational stuff for sure.
Hart rattles off his schedule for the next two weeks; it’ll practically take him around the world. So I ask him why the company doesn’t have a corporate jet? His reply: between Newark, La Guardia and Kennedy Airports, he can get anywhere in the world.
The company has about 500 employees but no boardroom. When the Board wants to meet, they use various hotels around the world.
As I stand up to shake hands with Hart and thank him for meeting with me I make an unusual request: "Any chance you could take out your wallet and show me which credit cards you carry?" Hart quickly pulls his wallet and produces three MasterCards (issued from different banks), a Chemical Bank Cirrus ATM card and an American Express card. Hart says he constantly changes the MasterCards he uses so he can check the service at different member banks. As for the American Express Card, Hart uses it for the smallest purchase possible each month. "Why bother?" I ask. He wants to receive their monthly statement. That way he keeps up with what the Green/Gold/Platinum guys are offering in goods and services.
National Basketball Association
As long as I’m in the neighborhood I decide to stop in and see the National Basketball Association. The first person I find is a receptionist in a glass booth. When I make a comment about the booth, the receptionist tells me she’s thankful it’s there. Several weeks ago a disgruntled fan rushed into the lobby and proceeded to storm around, ranting and raving about the officiating at a recent game.
It comes as no surprise to see color photographs of NBA basketball players in action hanging on the walls in the lobby.
The NBA means big bucks and it’s run just like any other big corporation. League revenues in 1992 were $1.1 billion. About 400 people work here. Chartese Berry, Assistant Director of Media Relations, takes me on a tour of headquarters.
Commissioner David Stern’s corner office has a desk that doubles as a conference table. Looking around I spot one plant (real), a huge television screen, five basketballs, a football and a baseball. I expect to see one of those miniature basketball hoops that fits over a wastepaper basket and comes with a foam ball. I’ve seen at least a half a dozen of those in CEO’s offices and I was sure I’d find one here. Nope. Stern does have a great view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral right across the street.
Privately-held Metallurg, Inc., with over $650 million in revenues in 1992, manufactures and supplies ferrous and non-ferrous metals and alloys plus metal-based chemicals to customers around the world.
Corporate offices are in a six-story, company-owned building with a metal and glass facade. The building looks out of place since it’s on a street lined with brownstones.
I meet with company Vice President Banks. VP Banks and I discovered a similar sport almost immediately. Ivan Boesky story telling. So we trade Ivan Boesky stories during my visit. Banks’ home in Westchester County backs up to Ivan Boesky’s wife’s huge home. Banks loves my story about running into Boesky in La Jolla, California—which is where he’s been living since getting out of prison. I saw him take a lit cigarette, place it on a window sill outside a store, enter the store, and then pick up his cigarette and re-smoke it on the way out. This kind of frugality seems astonishing when you consider that before his much publicized fall, Boesky would go into the ritziest restaurants in New York, order every entree on the menu, take one bite of everything and then decide what to order. The rest would go on his bill but would be carted away.
The American Stock Exchange & The New York Stock Exchange
I visit two stock exchanges in New York City but receive very different receptions. At the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), I pass through a metal detector PLUS the scrutiny of four security guards. At the American Stock Exchange (ASE), I also have to pass muster with four security guards, two close-circuit cameras, plus they search my backpack.
Raymond Pellecchia, Jr., Manager of the News Bureau at NYSE, gives me a warm and enthusiastic welcome and makes me feel like a VIP. He whisks me off to an open gallery above the trading floor where CNN and the other TV stations broadcast when they need the trading floor for background. The general public is allowed to watch the action from a gallery across the floor.
My guide at the ASE couldn’t care less about my questions or public relations. And speaking of public relations, it surprises me that the ASE doesn’t have a public viewing gallery for its trading floor—only one for VIP’s and visiting dignitaries. I get the impression the ASE has no place for the "little guy."
The NYSE had revenues in 1992 of $418 million and net income $41 million. The ASE had revenues of $114 million in 1992 and net income of $1.3 million. The 23-story building housing the NYSE was built in 1903. The 14-story building housing the ASE was built in 1921.
International Flavors & Fragrances
Who do you think comes up with all those fragrances for the Estee Lauders and Ralph Laurens of the world? International Flavors & Fragrances does. With 1992 revenues of $1.1 billion, IFF is the world’s leading creator and manufacturer of flavors and fragrances which are then used by other companies in a wide variety of consumer products.
Christine Burke, Director of Advertising & Public Relations, says some of the company’s biggest customers are here in New York City—Revlon, Estee Lauder and Cosmair.
Corporate offices are in a 10-story, 406,000 square-foot building, which used to be one of the company’s manufacturing plants. Right across the street is the CBS Broadcasting Center.
I talk to Burke in her 10th floor office—called the Penthouse. This office will be temporary due to ongoing renovations—the company’s first in over 30 years. About 125 employees work in the building.
The company’s parking garage, reserved for senior management, is located on the 8th floor. To park, these fortunate few must drive their cars into an elevator, which takes them to the parking lot. Sounds pretty weird to a guy from Southern California.
I meet a perfumer during my tour of the laboratory. He mixes together ingredients from hundreds of brown-colored bottles that line his office walls. I ask him one of my typical probing questions: what brand of cologne are you wearing? He laughs and answers, "soap and water." I don’t blame him. He probably gets tired of smelling anything.
CEO Eugene Grisanti’s office has a crystal ball on its coffee table and a beautiful six-foot by 12-foot black Chinese screen behind his desk. Classy place. They give me some men’s cologne. It’s a famous men’s brand but here, it comes in unmarked bottles. (For more information: IFF)
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national professional organization for all certified public accountants. Headquarters is on the 6th floor of a high-rise near Rockefeller Center. The lobby decor is all done in shades of green. (Just kidding.)
I finally arrange a meeting with Geoffrey Pickard, Vice President: Communications, after six visits. Sitting in the reception area I check out the magazines. There are 50 brochures on the 1993 AICPA National Small Firm Conference, the "Journal of Accountancy" (a trade publication published by the (AICPA), "The Tax Advisor," "CPA Client Bulletin" (a newsletter published by the AICPA) and three more brochures touting upcoming seminars on tax planning. A thrill a minute here.
The AICPA has 310,000 members. The AICPA is responsible for designing, creating and grading the Uniform CPA examinations—a rigorous two-and-a-half-day test.
Revenues for 1992 were $110 million; a third of these revenues come from AICPA publications. Net income for 1992 or as their annual report says: "excess of expenses over revenues" was $-5.6 million.
I wonder which accounting firm signs off on these guys’ annual
report so I check—the accounting firm of J.H. Cohn & Company.
RJR Nabisco Holdings, Inc.
Wow, this place is plush. I’ve just stepped off the elevator on the 34th floor of a midtown office building. I’m in the reception area for privately-held RJR Nabisco Holdings. It’s paneled in dark wood and everything looks plush. Silver bowls filled with the company’s brands of cigarettes, cookies and Life Savers candies rest on polished coffee tables.
While I wait for the receptionist to track down a possible tour guide for me I page through a booklet called, "Tins, Tales & Trademarks." I read the introduction by CEO Louis Gerstner (who’s now CEO of IBM.) I take particular note of his words: "We pay tribute to tradition in an extensive display of product memorabilia located throughout our headquarters. I invite you to stroll the halls and see for yourself where our journey as a company began." The booklet contains pictures and descriptions of over 180 items on display including a 200-pound cast iron Mr. Peanuts, antique tobacco jars, a carton of Winston cigarettes from 1957, a Nabisco tin from 1902, a Wheat Thins carton from 1960, a 1929 Camel advertisement and a Survival Ration tin from 1950. I can’t wait to see some of this stuff.
But alas, it’s not to be. Linda Elkes, Director: Personnel and Administration, arrives and tells me the company’s "not interested." So I point to the booklet I’ve been reading and ask her if I can at least walk around and view the memorabilia. She says no. But gee, I say. This booklet says visitors are invited "to stroll the halls." "Invited guests only," she responds.